Signor (Mr) Luigi is a young man in his early eighties living in Sesto Fiorentino, just a few kilometres away from the ancient city of Florence. Retired after a long prosperous career in neurosurgery that saw him perform some groundbreaking surgical operations, he now had time to “work on his brain.” He often joked with his colleagues about how he had spent over fifty years working on the brains of others, so, during retirement, he would spend time in his private OR eviscerating his own cerebral tissue with the help of anyone that cared to participate in such escapade.
Known for his calm disposition and admired by junior colleagues for his peculiar method of imparting knowledge, Luigi was just as I imagined him to be. I journeyed from the North Eastern part of Italy to Florence, about three hundred kilometres, to meet with him and understand this concept of consistency.
Wearing a white t-shirt over a pair of brown cotton trousers that exposed his legs, Luigi was waiting for me at the entrance to the city with his 12-year-old grandson, Emmanuelle. Two days before my arrival, he had asked me to come to Florence since he was to pick up his grandson from there.
As I sighted him from a distance, I beamed a smile, and he seemed to respond. Meeting him finally was a delight, and I could not wait to learn this concept that has helped Alberto so much in the past year. “If I could learn this tonight, I will be off to my city tomorrow morning to practise what I learn. Although I had obtained permission to be away for one week, I will not spend much time here,” I thought.
“Ciao, how are you?”
“Buongiorno. I am good sire.”
“You look older than Alberto. I thought he was older than you.” Luigi said, smiling.
“Yes, I look older. That is why I am here to learn the secret for Alberto’s looks,” I responded as we shook hands and laughed loudly. Luigi seems not to have lost his sense of humour, even after several years of retirement.
“How about you, Sir? How is life after service at the front lines?” I asked.
“Not bad. God has been taking good care of me since retirement.”
“And the government too, I can imagine,” I injected, smiling.
“Well, I won’t complain, although they are just giving me back my contribution after working my fingers to the bone.” He said.
“You are right, Sire. You are very right.” I said in agreement. After all, I was aware that the public pension fund is not as great as it used to be.
As we spoke, we walked towards a bar on the corner of the street.
“Ciao…” I said, turning to the grandson.
“Emmanuelle,” his grandson said, smiling.
“Yeah, Emmanuelle. How are you?”
“I am good, thank you. Benvenuto,” he said, smiling, as his grandfather ran his fingers through his bushy hair.
“Alright, my young ex-colleague, let us enjoy some traditionales before you head home. I understand you guys are busy this period with all the hybrid ORs that were not there in my days,” He said.
“Well, we keep innovating to find better ways to take good care of people. That is what you taught us.”
“Bravo, ragazzo. That is true.” He responded as we sat down in front of the bar.
While we had a cup of cappuccino with biscotti alle mandorle, he asked if this was my first time in Florence, to which I responded in the affirmative. He then compressed and downloaded the key facts about Florence to me in fifteen minutes, from il Rinascimento (the Renaissance) to Uffizi Gallery, from Dante Alighieri and his Comedia to Francesco Petrarca and Giovanni Bocaccio, not leaving out Machiavelli and his il Principe (The Prince). I have never been so excited to learn about the history of a city before. I do not know if it was the richness of the story or how he told it with so much gusto as a proud Fiorentino, but I thoroughly enjoyed every syllable that fell from his lips. So glued was I to the details that his nipotino, Emmanuelle soon asked me to finish my cappuccino before it normalised with the temperature outside.
After our bella chiacchierata (a nice chat), he asked me to meet him the following day in Sesto Fiorentino. I could not understand why he would not simply explain the concept to me over this good caffè fiorentino and let me travel back home. “Anyway, it is just a day. I would find a lodging place and rest. Later in the evening, I would go around to see the beautiful città gigliata.” I said in my mind.
At 7 am the next day, I had barely had my shower before my phone rang. It was Luigi calling to ask where I was. I could not believe he was up, let alone asking where I was. He wakes up every day at 5 am since his days as a surgeon and has maintained the habit even after retirement. That is understandable, given that certain habits are difficult to change even in old age, but I thought we would meet at about 10 am considering his age. Anyway, Luigi thought otherwise. For him, as I would learn from his nipote (grandson), Emmanuelle, lessons are best taught in the mornings while on a walk to Monte Morello. I quickly dressed up and drove to his house, and within forty minutes, I was there with him. And we began our walk and our lesson.
Luigi is in all respects a Roman, not by birth, but by virtue of having lived and worked in Rome for several years. Although his parents were Fiorentini, they moved to Rome when Luigi was a teenager in secondary school.
“Growing up in that environment allowed me to meet various classes of people in Italy and the world. It also helped me to learn some of the most valuable lessons that would guide me through my adult life as a doctor, husband, father and now grandfather,” he would recall. Those lessons are things I teach young people today, including my grandchildren. “Every weekend, I ask Emmanuelle to stay with me in the hopes of imparting some of these to him. You know grandparents are often receptacles of ancient wisdom, and that is who I have chosen to be to anyone that cares to listen.
True to this, it was Luigi’s grandma that taught him what he was about to teach me. While he lived in Rome, his grandma always told him stories related to what she had learnt or seen successful people do or how they lived in the ancient city of Rome. Any family she considered worthy of emulation, she visited, learnt their story, and in the cool of the day, relayed all of them to her beloved grandchild.
“I know you want to understand this concept I explained to your friend, Alberto. I would not delay telling you everything, at least the much you can handle now. But come with me, let us walk a few kilometres,” Luigi said, signalling, with his index finger, the safest path to the mountain. I obliged and went along. Although I did not have the right shoes and clothing, I knew what I wanted and was ready to pay any price. So, dear mountain, here comes Dan.
Thanks for reading. See you next Friday with Chapter Three. You can leave your comments below and share this story with friends.